Podcast Endings

Over the course of this summer through the last week, a number of podcasts I subscribe to have come to an end. In a way, these announced endings are relatively rare. It seems more common that people just trail off their production schedule and at some point they podfade without another episode being published. Here are the ones from my list, in no particular order.

I was a listener to several of the Poker Road shows, but I came very late in the game to Two Jacks in the Hole. Unlike all the other shows on that network, this was not poker related in content but a purely comedic show hosted by guys who hosted other shows on the network. That show came to an end, rebranded itself as Huff and Stapes off the network, joined up with the Toad Hop Network and then over the summer came to a finale. Scott Huff moved to New York and they decided that the show wouldn’t be the same over Skype so they executed the “Thank you, good night” maneuver. It was a shame, I really enjoyed this show and at times was brought to hysterics by it.

This is not strictly a podcast, but it fits with the general theme so what the heck. I was a reader of the Cerebus comic book for much of its run, although I still have never finished it. (I read Rick’s Story this year and am slowly working through the rest of the series.) Around the time the baby was born I discovered Cerebus TV, which was an odd duck of a new media product. It wasn’t on demand or downloadable, but streamed on an endless loop so you either started in the middle or as I did, turned the sound down and waited for it to loop back around to the beginning. It was mostly Dave Sim in his house addressing the camera, sometimes in monologues, sometimes while drawing. It also included interview segments done by some of the producers and other odd bits. I generally enjoyed the show although found it shocking that such a staunchly Canadian man could do the absolute worst Bob and Doug Mackenzie impression I’ve ever heard.

I had also been reading his post-Cerebus comic series glamourpuss, also an odd duck. It was a comic that was half parody of fashion magazines (including beautfully rendered ultra-realistic drawings) and half an exploration of the history of photo-realistic cartooning. In issue 26 is an editorial in which Sim discusses how he his shutting down glamourpuss as a series, his Cerebus Archive series and Cerebus TV. Apparently he’s going into career suicide mode, which is sad for such a talented individual. I intereviewed him when I was 17 years old at one of the early HeroesCons and he couldn’t have been nicer about it. I hope that his life and career do not go into worst case mode. I believe that some or all of the Cerebus TV episodes are going to be put into some purchasable form and I’l try to support those if the pricing structure is at all realistic. I went a while without watching Cerebus TV and now I don’t get to go back. I always enjoyed catching the first run when possible, and I liked it when in the intro he said “It’s 10 PM on Friday in Kitchener Ontario” and I actually was watching Friday at 10 PM. It’s the little things.

I became a fan of Mike Dawson in a roundabout fashion. First I heard him interviewed on Indie Spinner Rack about his graphic novel Freddie & Me , then later heard about him hosting an interview podcast series for The Comics Journal called TCJ Talkies. I subscribed to that, and later to his personal podcast with Alex Robinson the Ink Panthers show. From there, I bought several of his graphic novels and I quite liked all of his output in all of these media. Earlier this year, with a busy schedule and a second child on the way Dawson decided to cease production of the TCJ Talkies show. I certainly understand, having shut down an interview show myself I know the dynamic. The 30 – 90 minutes in conversation are the best but all the preparation ahead of time and post-production are the worst. He found he didn’t have time to devote to all of that, his children and his cartooning so this is the bit that had to give. I understand, but still miss the show.

The most recent of these shows, just announced in the last week or so, is the end of Ed Champion’s Bat Segundo Show. I’ve been a listener for a long time, and a (very) occasional correspondent with Mr. Champion. I’ll admit that I don’t listen to every episode of this show because his tastes are more rarified and intellectual than mine. I keep an eye out and listen to the specific shows with guests with whom I’m familiar and like a lot of those. In particular I’ve liked a lot of his shows with cartoonists. His conversations with Alison Bechdel were terrific and one of his last episodes is with Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez. I’m looking forward to that as a great capper to almost 500 episodes of insanely well researched and literate talk. As with Dawson, I completely understand why he found the need to do so. Champion does so much research that I can’t even fathom the hours these 500 shows required of him. I wish him luck in his future endeavors and thank him for all his great work in the past.

Chronicles of Lost Ebook Sales

Since this week I made some waves about ebook pricing, I wanted to blog while it was fresh another example of exactly what I was talking about, how money I was willing to toss a publisher’s way stayed in my pocket.

Chronicles of Lost Ebook Sales

This morning I listened to Edward Champion’s Bat Segundo Show #367, on which he interviewed Susan Straight. Her new book is Take One Candle Light a Room. From hearing this very interesting interview, I learned the novel is set in and around New Orleans before and after Katrina, and deals with troubled people trying not to screw up their lives. If you know my life history, my interests and taste in reading, you know this is basically a made sale. I spent a few years in Lafayette LA going to graduate school, visited New Orleans frequently and have a great affection for the region. Also, as a barely functioning fuck up myself I love stories about fuck ups. OK, let’s light this candle.

I went to Amazon, searched on her name and pulled up the novel. The price for the hardcover is $17.13, the (not yet published) paperback is $15.00 and the Kindle edition is $14.27. Oh boy. I was so willing to buy this book and now I won’t. The odds of me ever remembering to check back later when the price is more reasonable (if ever) are so small you can assume it is zero. Pantheon Books could have gotten some money out of me but the $14.27 is just too ridiculous.

At the time of this writing, the sales rank for the hardcover edition is #184,115 and the Kindle edition is #38,665. I don’t know what expectations were for this book and how it has performed for them in the 3 months it has been published but I think you can safely assume this is under the blockbuster level. For promotion that was to them effectively free – a podcast interview – they could have made a sale to me on a book that is not burning up the Amazon charts. Because of the pricing policy, they didn’t. There’s money that fails to go to Pantheon Books and Ms. Straight. Sorry, y’all.

Chronicles of Lost Ebook Sales

“Would you like to buy a box of Thin Mints from the Girl Scouts?”
“OK, that will be $8.25.”
“Ummm …”

I can afford $14.27 for the Kindle novel and I could afford $8.25 for a box of cookies. Will I pay that? Barring some freakish external circumstances, no, not either. If I were desperate for either, maybe my perceived value would rise. As the 200th novel bought on a whim on a Kindle chocked full of stuff to read – no thank you.

After the thought that went into this weeks previous pricing blog post, as well as the comment thread on Teleread’s republishing of it, I realized there is an important flip side to my data argument. If I don’t like the pricing policies of electronic books, it’s really incumbent on me not to pay them. Otherwise, I become one of those data points on the higher end and I become part of the reason justifying the higher prices. I spent a lot of time and words telling publishers they should analyze that data. If I want to like the conclusion they reach, I have to make my tiny portion of the data match that conclusion. So, rather than loosening up I’m clamping down on the perceived value argument.

Ms. Straight, your books sounds wonderful. I wish your publisher did better by you. Good luck out there.

PS – Want to read a really great book that is reasonably priced? Try by Solitaire by Kelley Eskridge. You’ll be glad you did.

Douglas Rushkoff and Life, Inc

The other day on impulse I bought the Kindle version of Douglas Rushkoff’s new book Life Inc . I heard two interviews with him, one on Bat Segundo and another on Tech Nation. I’ve long since dropped Tech Nation but this is the rare episode I actually didn’t delete out of hand and actually listened to.

Both interviews were interesting and in aggregate they sold me the book. I’m interested in the basic question of “When did we decide that these legal constructs that emulate a person are more important than actual people?” The Bat Segundo interview had one of Ed’s trademark conflicts of premise with Rushkoff. I swear to god, I’ve never heard any interviewer get more guest pushback than this show, but it was entertaining. One of the insights that interested me in the book was Rushkoff’s tackling of Maslow’s hierarchy of need, specifically that “self-actualization” is the highest peak of human enlightenment. As he points out, that’s actually a (by definition) self-centered viewpoint, and one could argue that the highest point of achievement is something like “community actualization” where you not only are secure and fulfilled in yourself but also with those around you.

Until Dragon*Con and beyond, I’ve got every second of reading time committed to books I need to read for interviews, but as soon as that is passed I’m reading the Rushkoff. It sounds right in my wheelhouse.

Update: I forgot to mention that in the Tech Nation interview, Rushkoff lamented that people are trying to earn more money so their money earns more money, and then to retire ever younger. Let me be the first to say “Guilty as charged!” I have a very good job that allows for a very secure life that I enjoy going to most days (I’d be lying if I said “every day.”) Even so, the idea of having all day every day to pursue whatever crazy idea occurs to me, to read books and comics and watch old movies, that seems like a damn pleasant existence. I’ve said for many years that if I ever get the point that my money and investments earn as much as I do, I’m going to get out of the way and let it do the work. Rushkoff seems to think that’s a weakness in character or morals or something. That’s what I call “the master plan.”

EGC Clambake for August 11, 2007 – “Friends, Parties, and Shared Experience”

Here is the Bittorrent link and direct MP3 download for the EGC clambake for August 11, 2007.

I play some submitted music from Rob Szabo; I discuss the dog and the summer and work and the party and why it has taken so much out of me and left me doing few podcasts lately; I play a promo from Darusha Wehm’s new podiobook Beautiful Red; I play clips from Berkeley Breathed on the Bat Segundo show and discuss my disagreements with his positions on mass media; I play another song by Rob Szabo and then hit the linaments and the steam room.

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To sponsor the show, contact BackBeat Media. Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package. This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5.

Links mentioned in this episode:

Around the Podosphere

In the last few days, I’ve listened to several interesting interviews. The first has to be my favorite episode of the Rock and Roll Geek Show so far. In Episode #251, he interviews Howard Kaylan of the Turtles, Mothers of Invention and many other places. I liked the Turtles but I loved a lot of what they have done since, including singing background on one of the best albums in rock history, T. Rex’s “Electric Warrior” and singing foreground on another of the best, Frank Zappa’s “Live at the Fillmore”. There was a stretch were Howard was extolling the virtues of controlling your own artistic output, not giving away your work to record companies, and such. Hearing a guy who has been in the music business for 40 years say the same things I do about it makes me feel nice and validated. I thought the interview rocked and I thank Brother Butler for doing it.

On kind of another extreme was the Bat Segundo interviews with Berke Breathed, Parts one and two. I like Breathed and was a big fan of Bloom County in the day. In part one he said many things of truth that I agreed with, but in part two he diverged from me. Particularly he had a stretch where he was lamenting the disappearance of the huge media, those pop cultural moments that were shared by basically all Americans. At one point he said something like “I fear that I sound like the old man waving his cane at kids on his lawn” which was hilarious, because that was exactly what I had been thinking. He pointed out that new artists now can’t get that 20 million readers that he used to be able to field. So what?

He was lucky enough to get in at the tail end of a long decline in the monolithic nature of media. This situation he fears we are losing (it ain’t a fear – it is really gone, never to return) is not something I think we particularly have to worry about or miss. It was a quirk of the growth cycle of modern media, where we had the capacity to distribute entertainment to many people at once, but not the capacity to distribute a wide diversity of said entertainment. I found it intriguing that his example he kept citing was Milton Berle in the 50’s. That’s a great example for both our points, because whenever I see kinescopes of the material that so fascinated the country back then, I find it unwatchable. Far from being brilliant and classic, it was broad, low brow and low common denominator. Sure, everyone watched him but that’s also because there were so few other choices. I grew up in the tail days of that, when we got 2 of the 3 networks as over the air stations in western Kansas. When cable arrived and I was able to watch Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman” video and full Frank Zappa concerts on Night Flight everything changed for me, and for the better. Breathed’s point that new cartoonists won’t have millions of readers just kept me saying “And so?” I really couldn’t see the problem with it. He seemed to be equating the magnitude of the audience with some sort of goodness factor, but that equation is no longer in play.

All that said, I really did like both parts of the interview and thought that Ed did a nice job with it. I don’t listen to every single episode anymore because I have only heard of or have an interest in about one in three of the people he talks to. The ones I listen to I really enjoy, though. Check it out.